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Sue Ann Jafarian's second Odelia Grey mystery, "Curse of the Holy Pail", was pretty good. An old client of Odelia's law firm, Sterling Price, has recently acquired a much sought after collectible item: a one of a kind lunchbox worth big bucks. Sterling is murdered and the lunchbox goes missing. Was it the gold digging ex-fiancee who was having an affair with Sterling's son Kyle? Was it Karla, Sterling's power hungry daughter, who was eager to take over her dad's company? Or was it Willie Proctor, the lunchbox's last owner, who faked his own death in order to escape the curse of the lunchbox? Odelia's got a lot of suspects to choose from in this one, and it was a lot of fun.

I have a weak spot for V.C. Andrews. I know, it's not her writing anymore, and it hasn't been for about 30 years, but I still read them, especially something like this, which is about the original first series. "Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth Hall" takes us back to Virginia. Kristin Masterworth, a distant cousin of the Foxworths, finds a diary on the site of Foxworth Hall, which is being torn down and rebuilt for a new investor. Kristin starts reading Christopher Dolllanganger's diary, one of the kids who was originally locked in the attic for almost four years. The diary has a strange pull on Kristin, and she finds herself neglecting the world around her to keep reading Christopher's story. It was cheesy as hell, but how can I pass up an opportunity to hear about the attic from Christopher's point of view?

Bill Willingham continues his Fables in Volume 20: Camelot. Rose Red is building a new Round Table and calls upon brave fables scattered all over the world to join her. Meanwhile, Snow White is still trying to get Bigby back. All the shattered glass has been reassembled, but there's one piece missing, and it's been hidden by Nurse Spratt. But why? Honestly, I don't even care anymore, but it's like hell, I've followed this series this long, I have to keep going.

I've always like Neil Patrick Harris. I mean, come on, who didn't love Doogie Howser? And I really liked him in HIMYM. Although I did recently watch "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" and started questioning life. Good grief, that movie was dumb, but NPH was pretty funny in it. At any rate, "Choose Your Own Autobiography" was a fun way to tell his story, in that old "Choose Your Own Adventure" book format, and who didn't love those books as a kid? I know I did. He actually led a fairly normal life, all things considered, he's just been incredibly lucky, hardworking, and talented. Good for him.

We're going back aways here, I've been busy, so this Charlaine Harris reread was actually from mid-October. Sookie is caught in the middle when shifters and Weres are being shot. Someone tries to burn down her house, but Claudine gets her out in time. Sam is shot but he's okay. Calvin Norris is shot but he's less okay. Captain Flood dies and the Long Tooth pack needs a new master. Sookie goes to the trials and meets Quinn, a were-tiger. She discovers the new cook at Merlotte's is the shooter.

"I Love You More" by Jennifer Murphy was pretty good, I enjoyed it, even if I did figure out the ending before the end. Diana Lane's life is shattered when she learns her husband, Oliver, has two other wives and other families. The three Mrs. Lanes get together to discuss revenge and they decide to murder their husband. Little did they know Diana's daughter Picasso has heard them making their plans.

I really liked "Amy and Roger's Epic Detour" by Morgan Matson. I love road trips, and so a book about a road trip, done well like this one, is a fun read. Amy's life was ruined a few months earlier when her father was killed in a car accident. Her twin brother is in rehab for his drug abuse, and Amy's mom has decided to move the family from California to Connecticut for a fresh start. Amy stays by herself to finish out the school year and then her mother decides to have the son of an old family friend, Roger, drive Amy across country to deliver the car, since Amy no longer drives. So what happens when you put two attractive teenagers alone together in a car to drive across country? C'mon, mom, buy a clue, right? Anyway, Amy and Roger decide not to follow her mom's itinerary and instead they venture out on their own.

"Those Who Wish Me Dead" by Michael Kortya was also really good. Young Jace witnesses two men killing cops who are witnesses in an important case and now the killers are after him. Jace ends up  with a new name, Connor, and goes to Montana to a wilderness survival training camp for troubled teenage boys. The instructor, Ethan, has sworn to hide and protect the boy, although he doesn't know which of his young charges is the witness. The killers are able to track Jace to Montana and attack Ethan's wife. When Ethan hears about the attack, he brings the boys down out of the mountain but Jace is scared and runs off to hide in the woods. It was very powerful.

Dr. Brennan is back in Kathy Reichs' latest, "Bones Never Lie". Brennan has to go find Detective Andrew Ryan in his self imposed exile after the death of his daughter when one of their old child killer perps resurfaces. Brennan finds Ryan and brings him back. Dead girls are turning up with Anique Pomerleau's DNA on them, but when they find Pomerleau's body in a farm up in Vermont, they start looking for her accomplice. It was very good, taunt, and in the end Ryan proposes to Brennan! Huzzah!!

I wasn't a big fan of Rufi Thorpe's "The Girls from Corona del Mar". Other than the neat references to Newport Beach, there wasn't much else to like. Mia and Lorrie Ann are two poor girls growing up in CdM in the 90s. Mia is the bad girl who gets in trouble, Lorrie Ann is the good girl with bad luck. Mia gets pregnant and has an abortion, Lorrie Ann gets pregnant and marries the father and her kid ends up with severe cerebral palsy. Her husband joins the Army so they can pay the hospital bills and is killed in Iraq. Mia goes to college, travels the world, meets a wonderful man. Lorrie Ann gets addicted to drugs and has her son taken away from her for neglect. Mia keeps trying to help her, but Lorrie Ann keeps refusing. It was just tepid, I didn't feel anything for Mia or Lorrie Ann.

Sara Shepard is back with a new series. "The Perfectionists" is about a group of overachieving high schoolers in Washington. When five girls get together in film studies class and decide to get revenge on Nolan, a bully who has hurt all of them, things go very wrong. Nolan ends up dead at his own party from what looks like an Oxy overdose but turns out to be cyanide poisoning. The girls slipped him the Oxy but didn't kill him, however, someone saw them do it and is now helping the cops build a case against them. So far I'm not terribly impressed, it feels rather like "been there, done that" territory, but we'll see.

The amazing James Ellroy is back with a new L.A. Quartet. I was lucky enough to hear him speak for the second time (the first time was at the 2009 LA Times Festival of Books) on October 30, and he is so amazing. Just enthralling. "Perfidia" was hard core, gritty, and on point. It's set in L.A. in December of 1941. A few hours before Pearl Harbor, a Japanese family is murdered. LAPD wants the case wrapped up and wrapped up quick, they don't care is the real killer is brought to justice, so long as someone is so they can get back to business as usual. Many of his characters from other books make appearances, like Dudley Smith, Kay Lake, Claire DeHaven, and Bucky Bleichert. The ending knocked me out, as his endings always do.

Barry Lyga's third book in the Game trilogy, "Blood of My Blood", was awesome. It's a shame he's classified as YA, because I think a lot of adults tend to shy away from YA books, and this is one that shouldn't be missed. Jazz tracks his escaped serial killer father to New York. Billy Dent kidnaps Jazz's girlfriends, Connie, but she manages to escape, but not after seeing Billy has Jazz's mom Janice held hostage too. Billy goes back to Lobo's Nob, and Jazz follows, determined to save his mom. I sort of figured out the big twist beforehand, but it didn't diminish the impact when it came. Wow. Just a great way to tie up the series.

If you're around my age or a bit older, you probably remember May of 1998, and hearing on the news that Phil Hartman had been murdered by his wife Brynn. I didn't watch Saturday Night Live for long, but I did watch during some of Phil's tenure there, and always enjoyed his sketches. I loved him on the Simpsons, too, as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. He was slated to be on Futurama as Zapp Brannigan, and he would have been magnificent. Mike Thomas's tribute to Phil is lovely, talking about what a great guy he was, how everyone loved him. Phil always seemed much younger to me than his actual age, just because of how funny he was and how much he seemed to enjoy life. His murder was a real tragedy.

"Growing Up Amish" by Ira Wagler is his memoir of his rebellious teen years. During that time he left his Amish home repeatedly, only to keep coming back in misguided attempts to make his Amish heritage "stick". He joined the church and left. Came back, repented, asked forgiveness, and was taken back in. Then he left again. He finally left for good around age 26, when he managed to get his head on straight and leave for the right reasons rather than just rebellion. It would have been more interesting if he'd been able to articulate what exactly it was about the Amish life he didn't like so much. He was like, oh I wanted to leave so I left. Well, okay, but *why*? At any rate, I hope he's happy with the decisions he's made since leaving for good.

Robert Kirkman's "Walking Dead Vol. 21: All Out War Part 2" finds Rick's team gearing up for one final showdown with Neegan. It ends with Rick capturing Neegan. Many of his group want to kill him, but Rick successfully argues for his lifelong imprisonment instead and the two groups agree to work together to rebuild. It's about time, too, I've been hoping Walking Dead would eventually reach the point where they stop running and start rebuilding society. I think that's interesting. I hope the TV show follows suit :)

"The King's Curse" by Philippa Gregory is the sixth in her Cousin's War series. It follows the life of Lady Margaret Pole, born a Plantagenet and cousin to Henry VII's wife, Elizabeth. She is married off to a minor knight and loyal supporter of the King. Lady Margaret is there when Prince Arthur dies, and swears to Princess Katherine that she will do anything it takes to see her married to Prince Henry and on the throne of England, so when the subject comes up of if Arthur and Katherine consummated their marriage, Margaret did a palms up and refused to say more. Henry VII dies, and his son, one of the most evil tyrants the world has seen, Henry VIII, takes the throne and marries Katherine. Margaret is there when their baby sons die, one after the other, and is Princess Mary's governess. She is there when Henry throws aside his true wife for Anne Boleyn. She is there for all of it, until Henry throws her in the tower and cuts off her head, a little old lady in her sixties, simply because he could. It was very moving and nicely done.

I was at the Long Beach Comic Con a few weekends ago, and I saw this comic. I used to read Archies all the time as a kid, I still have a bunch. I had to see how poor Archie met his end. He died saving a friend from a bullet, in true Archie style. It made me want to go back and reread some of my old ones.

"Supernatural Enhancements" by Edgar Centero was suitably spooky for this time of year. I love the cover! So, A. is a young twenty something European lad who discovers, in 1995, that he had a second cousin twice removed in America who has died, committed suicide, actually, by jumping out of a window the exact same way his father before him did. Since Ambrose Wells never married, A. is his closest heir. A. comes to Virginia to see the mansion left to him, bringing along his mute companion, a teenage girl named Niamh. They start digging into the clues Ambrose left behind for his butler, who fled the scene before A. showed up. Ambrose was a bit of a hermit who seemed to devote his life to research of some sort, and every year at the Winter Solstice a group of his fellow researchers would show up at the house for several days. What they did no one seems to know. Very odd things keep happening, like light bulbs bursting, shadows in the tub, and wicked nightmares. The house is of course haunted, but in a very unusual way. It was very good and quite creepy, I enjoyed it.

"Too Big to Miss" by Sue Ann Jaffarian is the first in a series starring a plus size paralegal named Odelia Grey. I really enjoyed it: it had a touch of humor without being disrespectful towards the dead or big ladies. One of Odelia's good friends, Sophie, kills herself while on a webcam for her website, which catered to men with fetishes for big girls. Odelia didn't know she ran such a website, but she does know Sophie wouldn't have just committed suicide like that--someone must have drove her to it. The more she digs the more she discovers how little she really knew Sophie, how many secrets she was really keeping.

"Boleyn Reckoning" by Laura Andersen was the third of her trilogy. I didn't really care for the whole series. I really felt she had the opportunity to do something fun with William and his sister Elizabeth. If Elizabeth isn't going to be queen, marry her off, have William marry someone interesting, I don't know, do something other than basically have it come out the way it did in real life. Anyway, Minuette and Dominic's secret marriage is found out and William is livid. He banishes them and has Dominic arrested and thrown in the tower. He kills his sister's favorite, Robert Dudley, and then ends up dying in battle. Elizabeth becomes queen anyway, but without her Sweet Robin, which I'm sure would have made her an even more bitter and angry person than she already was.

Book #3, "Trixie Belden and the Gatehouse Mystery" by Julie Campbell is another one of my favorites (I remember the early ones better because I've read them so many times). It's late summer after Honey has moved in next door, Jim is safely ensconced in the Wheeler household, and Mart and Brian are finally back from summer camp. The kids form a club after cleaning up the Wheeler's old gatehouse and call themselves the Bob-Whites of the Glen. Trixie and Honey found a diamond in the gatehouse, and they're sure one of the Wheeler's new employees is the thief who lost it. Trixie suspects Dick the new chauffeur right away, but it takes some convincing to get the rest of the Bob-Whites on board.

"Fables Vol. 19: Snow White" by Bill Willingham has Bigby gone in search of their two missing children. While he's gone, Prince Brandish shows up the newly rebuilt Fabletown, insisting that he and Snow White were married under ancient rules and the marriage is still valid. He has gone to a lot of trouble to enchant himself with protective spells, so whatever damage anyone does to him hurts Snow White instead. Ghost is able to find his father and bring him back to save Snow White, but Prince Brandish turns Bigby into a glass wolf and shatters him. Snow is able to kill him once the Fabletown witches undo his protective spells, but is Bigby gone forever? I sure hope not.

Book #14, "Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Emeralds" by Katherine Kenny (Julie Campbell stopped writing them after book #6, and Random House used a group of in house writers under the name of Katherine Kenny to finish it out, which is why there are inconsistencies in the later books) was one that I didn't remember the finer details of. Trixie finds an old letter in their attic, discussing an emerald necklace hidden in a Southern estate. Luckily, the Lynches were planning a trip to Virginia and because Mr. Lynch is awesome, he lets Di bring all her friends along. In Virginia they are quickly able to discover the estate mentioned in the letter, but it's owned by a very shifty man who is also on the hunt for the emeralds. Who will find them first?? :)

 Another reread, book 4 of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, "Dead to the World". I think this one is my favorite. Sookie is driving home late one night from work and she sees Eric out wandering. He has been cursed by a group of witches and lost his memory. Sookie takes him home for safekeeping and lets Pam know where he is. Pam asks her to keep him safe there, since no one will look for him, while she tries to figure out a way to undo the witches' curse. Sookie reluctantly agrees, but soon discovers that Eric without his memory is a sweet, kind man. Unfortunately, her brother Jason has disappeared. He was dating a werepanther from Hotshot, and they discover a panther print and blood on his deck. Plus, Debbie Pelt is still pissed that her boyfriend, Alcide, has the hots for Sook and is after her. Poor Sookie can't seem to catch a break.

Lawrence Block's "A Walk Among the Tombstones" was excellent. Matt Scudder is an ex-cop turned private detective. He gets a call from Kenan Khoury, a drug trafficker. Two men kidnapped his wife and called demanding a million dollar ransom. Kenan talked them down to $400,000, delivered the money, and they sent his wife back to him in pieces. Kenan would like Matt's help in tracking them down. Matt agrees to take the case and goes to work trying to find out things while Kenan calls associates in the business to warn them to keep their wives safe. A few weeks later Yuri calls Kenan: his twelve year old daughter has been kidnapped and a million dollar ransom has been demanded. Set in the early '90s, before cell phones, it was amazing how Matt and his tech savvy street friends were able to accomplish tracking down the bad guys. Taunt, suspenseful, with a great gritty ending.

I love Rainbow Rowell. I really, truly do. She's so amazingly awesome. "Landline" was just brilliant. Georgie has to stay in L.A. over Christmas to work on her TV pilot, since a major network is interested. She and her husband, Neal, argue, since they had plans to go back to Omaha to visit his mom. Neal has given up everything for Georgie's dreams, and he doesn't think she appreciates him. Georgie *does*, she just doesn't have the time to show him. Neal takes their two daughters and goes to Omaha, leaving Georgie behind in L.A. to work on her show with her best friend Seth. She can't concentrate, though, worrying that her marriage is ending. She ends up going to her Mom's house rather than driving home to an empty house, and because her cell phone is dead, she digs out an old phone and plugs it into the landline and calls Neal's mom's house. She reaches Neal, but the Neal of 1998, 15 earlier, before they married. That was the last time they'd broken up. Neal went to Omaha without her that Christmas, and they didn't speak all week. Then he showed up at her house Christmas morning and proposed. Georgie is stunned when she realizes she's talking to the Neal of the past. Should she keep talking to him? Convince him to not marry her in the first place so he'd be better off? Then it occurs to her--what if Neal proposed 15 years ago BECAUSE she talked to him that week from 15 years in the future? It was so lovely, and touching, I really enjoyed it.

Trixie! I was in the mood for a fun laugh, and "The Mystery Off Old Glen Road" is my favorite one in the series. I love that the mystery is actually just a series of escalating misunderstandings, the result of keeping secrets. It just seems very realistic, unlike catching bank robbers and diamond thieves. The Bob-Whites have just finished getting their clubhouse all in order when a nasty storm downs a tree and rips out the ceiling and part of a wall. Brian gives up his $50 car fund to buy supplies to fix the clubhouse, and Trixie gives Mr. Lytell her diamond ring to hold the car for Brian until the club can earn the money to pay Brian back. In order to convince her dad to get the ring out of the safety deposit box, Trixie has to pretend to be in love with Honey's cousin Ben, who is spending the Thanksgiving holiday with the Wheelers. Meanwhile, their game keeper has quit, so the Bob-Whites talk Miss Trask into letting them take the job over the holiday so they can earn the $50. While out patrolling, Honey and Trixie are sure they are hot on the trail of a poacher! It's such good fun. I'm sorry Trixie wasn't more popular.

"We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler was a complex book, but interesting. Rosemary was raised with a chimp named Fern  the same age as her until she was 5, and science experiment run by her dad. At the age of five, Fern is sent away and the Cooke's lives are turned upside down. Lowell, Rosemary's older brother, is upset by her dad using Fern and disposing of her so callously, and runs away to try to break Fern out of the lab where she's being held. Lowell ends up becoming a domestic terrorist, wanted by the FBI for his work freeing lab animals. Rosemary doesn't see him for years, since he's on the run.

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